slows by . I’m taking
an order from a couple from Colorado vacationing
on the Peninsula when I hear the grandson’s
voice. I smile to myself. Once in a while they swing
by the restaurant and make my day. Lunch rush was
heavy today. That means bussing tables as well as
taking orders, getting coffee refills, and prepping
some of the sides like the pasta and Greek salads.
When Vern grouses around back with a hangover, I
do the register too. Today, Vern is badly hung over.
He’s the owner and does most of the cooking when
he can manage it. I guess he’s managing it today
though with a goodly amount of fuming and clamor.
gets uptight about coming into the place. It has
a bar, though not a heavy-duty bar. Only with private
parties does the booze get out of hand. Most of
the time it’s a family sort of place with windows
looking out on the harbor, tablecloths and cloth
napkins for dinner, and tables scattered on the
deck when summer comes. Out of the corner of my
eye, I notice Dorie scoot my only grandbaby onto
the vinyl booth cushion. She warns him.
into Mother’s eyes. We are only going to stay her
a few minutes. See the ferryboat out the window
up straight Joshua and please sit still. We’re going
to ride on the ferry in just a little while. Remember,
no begging for treats from your grandmother. Make
mother proud of you, son.”
spilled something on your jacket.”
From her coat she produces a handkerchief,
moistens it with spit, and rubs at a spot of yesterday’s
ago, on March 18th, he celebrated his
fifth birthday.I didn’t make the party; too tense for Dorie
so I pulled a double-shift that night and begged
off. She acted disappointed, but I know she was
relieved. What the hell.
After placing an order, I swing by the soda
machine and fill two glasses with Pepsi and ice.
“Hi, you two
love bugs. Be back in a flash.”
I plop a glass in front of each of
them. Doreen doesn’t give Joshua soda pop She’s
convinced that it makes him hyperactive. I’m guessing
she also thinks it’ll get him addicted to caffeine
and after that, who knows what he might get addicted
to? When I come back, both Pepsi’s sit on Dorie’s
side of the table, untouched. Nothing to fight over.
I slide next to my boy.
“Hi there tiger lily. How’s tricks Joshy?
have been through this many times before. William
and I named him Joshua. That is what we prefer him
to be called. I would appreciate it if you would
not call him by nicknames.”
Doreen, dear, I will call this little munchkin Joshua.
I am sorry. Sometimes I just forget. Say, Joshua,
I wonder what Nana has in her sweater pocket for
a big old boy like you? I just wonder what it could
Joshy giggles and reaches into the
side-pocket of my cardigan. Carefully, he draws
out a little cardboard box covered with cellophane.
“What is it, Nana?”
little peach blossom, is an authentic, super-duper,
one and only Spiderman Wrist Watch, complete with
flashing lights and a whiz-bang game all combined—shazam!”
tiger butt—Joshua. Now, let Nana show you how this
Spiderman watch work, if I can remember what that
cute little salesgal told me.”
I show him the button on the side
that makes little lights of red and green flash.
Then there’s another button that releases a tiny
silver ball that’s supposed to find its way in to
one of Spiderman’s eyes if you tilt the watch back
and forth the right way. I tried several times and
couldn’t do it. That damn ball moves too fast. There’s
supposed to be another ball released for the other
eye if you get it in the first one. I never made
it that far. He’ll like the flashy lights anyway.
They’ll be pretty cool under the covers at night.
My grandson can already tell time.
“I like the lights, Nana.”
“Me too. Joshy—ua!”
I look up at Doreen. Ah hell, “Dorie”,
she’s my kid; I named her for crissake. Dorie’s
an evangelical Christian. I’m not exactly sure what
that means. She told me she got saved in college
during her sophomore at the university in Bellingham. She started
attending some meetings in the student union. She
met William there. They went to a Bible study with
some other kids. One night a guest speaker spoke
and afterwards, with William on one side and the
evangelist on the other, she knelt and asked Jesus
into her heart. At first, she felt very excited
but then she grew terribly burdened. She had lots
of unsaved friends and family. She felt a weight
to witness to her girl friends that still lived
here in Port Angeles. Of course, the relatives were next,
finally Fred and me. Fred’s her dad. We’re divorced.
“Hi there, lovely. I miss you.”
I’ve been so busy. Every day there is so much to
do. It makes it difficult to drive all the way up
here to see you. I’m really excited, though, because
William was elected an elder last Sunday. It’s an
awesome responsibility. He’ll have weekly elder
meetings and, of course, special meetings to deal
with disciplinary cases, evangelism, mission’s planning,
prayer, and everything else. He alternates preaching
duties with Fred Pribyl, the other teaching elder.
William decided to exposit Ephesians. He’ll do a
fantastic job. It would be good if you could come
to a Sunday service and hear him explain, in detail,
Maybe sometime I can, but I usually work the Sunday
brunch. Sounds like you’re in a whirlwind.”
it is the Lord’s work and we are committed to doing
it in the Lord’s way.”
Damn, if Joshy
didn’t get that ball in Spiderman’s eye—both eyes!
That kid is a genius. While we were gabbing he plugged
up both of Spiderman’s eyes. Now he bends over the
watch with his forehead resting on his cupped hands
and delights in the light show.
“What about you, baby girl, what’s up with
“’Doreen,’ Mom, please?”
“Sorry. What’s happeningDoreen?”
been very fulfilled with several projects, the most
important of which is beginning home-schooling with
Joshua. He learns kindergarten with me each morning
at the kitchen table. Already he has memorized the
alphabet, his numbers, and six Bible verses. Then,
of course, there’s the food co-op. That takes up
a lot of time, what with picking up the donated
food and repackaging it, and then getting it set
out at the food bank each Saturday morning. Last
week I wrote an evangelistic tract and we’re having
it printed to put in each of the grocery sacks for
the poor who come to the food bank. Choir practice
is on Tuesday nights. The latest thing is that I’m
taking a series of five classes in street evangelism
taught at SeattleBibleCollege. Our final
project consists of going door-to-door sharing the
Gospel. I’m really excited about witnessing for
Christ and reaping a harvest.”
my girl, busy as ever. I’m sure you’ll well at every
one of your projects, hon.”
light brown hair is long, mid-way down her back,
and parted severely in the middle. Every couple
of months she works hard to straighten the curls
she inherited from me. I guess curls are vain. She
is forever pulling the sides over each of her ears.
Her forehead wrinkles when she squints, which happens
whenever she talks. Her lips are thin and drawn
tight. Ah, but those eyes, emerald green, like her
Dad’s. Devastating eyes.
“Time to go, Joshua.”
“Ah, Mom, do we have to?”
I sigh my motherly sigh as I look
at my grandson.
I don’t really listen to her rehearse her
schedule, but I catch that they’re off on the ferry
to Victoria to drop off
some church supplies. I hold Joshy’s face between
my hands and give him Eskimo kisses. And then, for
good measure, a flurry of butterfly kisses too.
He giggles. I reach an arm for my daughter, but
she has turned away to slip on her raincoat. As
they walk toward the door that leads into the mini-mall,
Dorie fusses with Joshy’s coat; their heads disappear
down the stairs to the main floor.
The Denver couple finished
their lunch and is ready for the check.
“How did you like that chowder?”
“Good. And how about the fish-n-chips, darling?”
The young wife answers with a full
smile, her eyes bright.
any better. My Mom was English and she took me back
for a couple of visits.They have great fish-n-chips there, but these
tasted even better.”
“ I’ll tell
the cook. You folks enjoy your stay on the Peninsula.”
They leave a generous tip and saunter
I minister to the coffee machine with a new
filter, fresh water, and scoops of strong nut-smelling
coffee. The place is empty now, except for Vern,
asleep, no doubt, in the back. After bussing and
wiping down the tables, I sit with a fresh cup looking
out on the harbor.
Landing Bar and Grill boasts plate glass windows
all along one side and across the back where the
view takes in a good part of the harbor. I used
to like my coffee black, though I have taken to
cream lately. The tummy’s been acting up. I’m thinking
it’s the acid in the coffee, but I’m not going to
give up coffee just yet. Maybe it’s some other belly
problem. Anyhow, this cup sure tastes good. I’m
getting used to the cream; can’t imagine dumping
sugar in it though. Who knows, pretty soon I’ll
be sipping lattes. I must say, it sure does feel
good to take a load off.
The clouds outside are confused, hazy with
thick puffs racing by and the wind builds from the
west where the big storms hit us. Every once in
a while, as a watch, the red tile roof on the Coast
Guard building over on the tip of Ediz Hook disappears.
Then suddenly, with a brightening, it pops back
and seems quite close. When clouds rush like this,
the light changes constantly. In sunlight, the water
takes on a deep blue color, but then the ocean turns
gray with lost light. This weather fools with my
I’ve lived in and around the Olympic Peninsula
for most of my life. The Chamber of Commerce is
always going on about the rain shadow—the Blue Hole—to
get tourists and industry to locate here. I’ll grant
that we get less rain than Seattle
does, still, we have our share of gloom just the
same. I guess the sun shines a little more in the
a few miles east of here. That’s where I was raised,
a little town called Carlsborg.
Ferry’s coming. That damnable horn startles
the bejeebies out if me every time, even when I
expect it. Two ferries companies make the run from
here to Canada.
That one coming in now is the big one. It carries
cars and trucks as well as people. When it comes
motoring in from Victoria
it’s a sight to see. It charges like it’s going
to plow right into the dock, and then at the last
second it swings out toward the harbor and backs
in without a hitch. I like to watch it. Lots of
our customers grab a bite in here before boarding.
Tickets are first come, first serve on the ferry,
so most travelers buy their tickets early, eat,
and then do some window-shopping. When business
is slow, I watch them walk along Railroad
Street and then up the
hill on Lincoln
toward the courthouse. There’s really not a lot
to see here, but I suppose looking passes the time.
We have a beach two blocks south of here
called Hollywood Beach. It’s
near the town pier. I don’t know why they named
it sure as hell ain’t California,
no palm trees and sand, just tons of rocks. Mostly
high school kids dare each other into the cold water;
sensible people are too smart for that. Nice enough
place for a picnic though.
I know the shuffle. Fred. Not a salesman’s
light tapping leather or the thump of one of those
outdoor types. Fred walks pigeon-toed and lands
on the balls of his feet, a sandpapery sound, light,
and deliberate. I’m keep looking at the people walking
off the ferry.
“Hi, Fred, how’s tricks?”
“Not so bad, Annie, and you?”
“Hanging in there. You want a cold one?”
“Naw. A cup of coffee sounds good though.
It’s kind of raw out there.”
“Looks like a storm. Take a seat. I’ll be
back in a flash.”
what this is all about. I haven’t seen my “Ex” for
almost a year. I sure as hell don’t have any money.
Easy sister, he’d never ask for money.
“Still take it black, Fred?”
“Put some cream in it, would you? I’m getting
a bad gut.”
good God, not you too. I wonder if we look alike
too, like those decrepit couples in synthetic walking
outfits that have been together forever. Please,
“There you go.”
He still cuts quite a figure, slim-waisted,
broad across the chest and shoulders. A fine specimen
of a man. The beard’s gone completely white now;
it contrasts with those deep-water eyes. A front
tooth was set ajar by 1 x 6 that busted him in the
chops when he was pulling out another board below
it. He was fourteen, just starting out in his Dad’s
“How’s the wooden boat business?”
so bad. We got an order for a Concordia 33 a couple
of months ago. I got the lofting done and hired
a couple of kids that just graduated from the boat
Donnie still working with you?”
He’s been steady when the work is. I’ll tell you,
that Donnie can do some of the prettiest joinery
work I’ve seen anywhere.”
I turn to look at the new passengers heading up
the gangway. My kiddies are probably already on
me about the boat, Fred. I remember the name, Concordia,
New England design?”
She’s sweet, Annie, sweet lines. Wilder Harris designed
her in the 1930’s. She’s a bit over 33 feet with
close to ten-foot of beam. The client wants a sloop
rig which I figure will carry about 500 square-feet
Don’t cry, old girl. Bite the inside of your lip
if you have to. No tears. But it stirs me so to
hear him talk about boats—so many memories.
rented a fallen-down barn west of Port Hadlock.
It was winter when we started finishing out the
hayloft and converted it into our home. On Saturdays
and Sundays, from daylight to way past dark, we
worked side by side hauling boards from the construction
sights where Fred was framing houses. He labored
through six-day week from seven in the morning until
five and took a portion of his pay in wood. Then
he’d come to the barn and plunge into more work.
Many a time it was after
when we stopped for a glass a wine, sometimes a
Lord, he was strong and so smart about building.
He could figure a design in his head, work the angles
with just a bevel gauge; he even made most of his
own hand tools. We got along swell. Before summer,
we got married and moved in to the loft the same
April 8, 1964. A week later he got his
first commission. Fred got off the phone and excitedly
explained to me that, though it was only a twelve-foot
dinghy, the boat was an old Herreshoff, the best
designer in America
and probably the world. Fred did a grand job on
the boat. The buyer, a lawyer officed in Port Townsend,
loved the boat so much that he convinced a friend
to order one. The next year that same lawyer had
Fred build him a bigger boat, twenty-six feet with
a fixed keel. Soon after he started on the boat,
I started on morning sickness.
We had loads of fun. After three months,
Fred quit his construction job. He’d be down in
the shop working on a boat and I’d be up in the
loft tending Dorie. We’d work together during her
naps. When the baby got older we’d bring her down
to the shop. Fred built a playpen that resembled
a boat deck. She was safe in there and she had lots
of hand-made toys to play with. Poor? God, yes we
were poor, but happy. Fred’s eyes were always full
of boats and me. Then another skirt caught his eye,
and that did us in.
“You listening, Annie?”
“Yep, and remembering a little too.”
we’ve had to build a bigger steam box. These frames
are longer than anything we’ve done before. We cut
the oak frames last week and the bending starts
tomorrow. She’s all traditional, carvel planked,
and get this, planked with the prettiest damn mahogany
I ever saw. All bronze fittings, of course. Hell,
Annie, it’ll be the prettiest and strongest boat
to go, Fred.”
down at the last of the coffee in his cup.
The horn blast from the ferry jerks my head
around. The wind’s building with lots of fog pushing
every which way. On the top deck, a young couple
holds each other. Their embrace warms me.
“Seen Dorie and the kid?”
as a matter of fact, you just missed them. Of course,
they couldn’t stay—maybe five minutes. You know
how she is. They’re on the ferry for Victoria.”
ain’t seen them for a year, seems like.”
ain’t seen them much either. Dorie runs a pretty
the quiet grunt I heard out of Fred for fifteen
years. Now it’s my turn to stare at the coffee.
“Want more coffee?”
“No, Annie, one’s enough for me.”
on your mind, Fred? You’re not in the habit of stopping
around just to jaw with the former old lady.”
I guess you’re right. It’s kind of stupid of me
to be here. Maybe I should go.”
left me three weeks ago.”
a fact? You okay?”
I am, sometimes not. We hadn’t been getting along
so good for a while. But, I didn’t think she’d split.”
I’ll get over it.”
don’t think she’s coming back?”
come? You’ve been together quite a while.”
got somebody else.”
The rain begins to pelt as the ferry pulls
out from the dock. I look at the thin streams of
water streaking the window. The streaks don’t race
each other. They meander all over the glass. You’d
think they’d go straight down, but they don’t. They
wiggle. Sometimes they meet up with each other and
make a bigger stream. They look like tears puddling
down the glass, stopping and then starting again.
Once, after Fred left, I sat in front of
the bathroom mirror on a kitchen chair—we made the
chairs together, turning the legs on a lathe. My
tears were just like this window-rain, stopping
and starting, going to the corner of my mouth, making
a little puddle under at my chin, then they dripped
on my bare breasts. I sat that way for an hour without
a stitch on.
“I sorry, Fred. Really. That’s a bummer.”
I guess. I ran out on you for someone else. Now,
Robin’s cut out on me. Serves me right. God damnit,
she took up with that peckerwood Dan Tolin that
works down at the Marine Supply. That son-of-a-bitch
ain’t even twenty-five years old if he’s a day.
Hell, she’s been balling him for a goddamned year
from what I hear. And there I am, going down to
the Marine Supply every few days, just as stupid
as a post and buying stuff from that kid, and him
just as polite and nice as he can be. In fact, I
once told Robin what a nice kid he was. She just
smiled and said she’d seen him there but hadn’t
met him. I am so pissed I could go after that kid
with a marlinspike. But it wouldn’t do no good.
They’d throw me in the can forever. Boy, she got
me good, picking fights with me after work and stomping
off like she’s all offended, and then meeting up
with that kid somewhere. I’m just a stupid goddamned
rudderpost that’s what I am.”
coffee, with a bump?”
It would be easy to gloat, easy to tell Freddie-boy
to go to hell. That would be fair, wouldn’t it?
I don’t know, though, if I believe in that kind
of justice. Seems like we just bump into things,
like getting up in the middle of the night to pee
and stubbing your toe against a chair you forgot
to put away. When Fred took off with his girlfriend,
I wasn’t just angry or sad. There were other moments,
different feelings. Sure, I felt awful, but I felt
relief too. I knew he’d been fooling around, half
of Port Townsend knew. Relief. And another thing,
Dorie and I got really close during that time, not
so bad really.
Half coffee, half Irish whiskey, I put the
cup in front of Fred. He stares at it.
Three older women come in, blue hair’d and
dressed in skirts, hose, high heels, and bellies
cinched tight with raincoats. Their bosoms overflow
frilly blouses.I grin. They might topple over with the weight
of hair and boobs. Their skin reeks from many samples
of hand lotion at the Hawaiian booth out in the
“Customers. Don’t go, Fred. I’ll be back.”
Suddenly, there is a terrific screeching
noise. We all turn toward the front window. In slow
motion, the aluminum awning that covers the deck
parts from the building. The noise stops as the
roof and posts lift a foot in the air and then tumbles
into the water. I never seen anything like it.
Fred and I run to the window and watch the
awning lolling around in the water. First it tips
one way, then the other, and then it sinks. We stare
until it disappears.
“That’s really something.”
“I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch.”
slams through the kitchen door.
“What the hell is going on out here?”
three blue hairs take a rain check on lunch and
scurry out. Just then, a wave cascades over the
wharf and hits the window square. I grab Fred’s
arm and just as quickly let it go.
worried about Dorie and Joshy.”
The roads aren’t bad.”
they’re not driving, they’re on that God damned
“Oh, for crissake, I forgot!”
a big boat, all the modern safety stuff. John Franklin’s
seasoned. He’s a good captain, knows what he’s doing.
He’s likely headed into the wind. That’ll slow boat
and keep the seas manageable. They’ll be all right.”
until it blows over.”
But, I got to go check on Kimberly Ann. She’s tied
up at the guest dock at the marina. She’s side on
to the wind and I only tied her fore and aft, no
spring lines. I got to move her head on and get
more line on her.”
on a shelf in the pantry, I grab my purse. I feel
embarrassed because my keys have a fuzzy kitty-cat
fob. I attempt to take it off and can’t. What the
hell. I toss it to Fred; he jogs out of the place.
The sea in the bay is building even though
the sand spit protects the harbor. The waves threaten
the dock. Spray whips over the pilings. No streams
running down the glass now—sheets of water. I peer
steadily through the storm and try to find the ferry.
Fred stands beside me. I startle.
“Sorry, I thought you heard me come back.”
“I’m frantic about them.
denying, there’s a capful of wind out there. But,
like I said, Franklin
knows what he’s doing. Anyway, I brought back the
portable VHS. We can listen to what’s going on.”
sets the radio on a nearby table.
“Let’s sit down, if you like, Annie. We can
monitor their progress.”
“No thanks. Go ahead and turn it on. I can’t
sit just yet.
Static fills the air. He switches over to
channel sixteen and fiddles with the knobs. Then
he flicks to nine and fourteen and switches back
to sixteen—the emergency channel.
“Nothing. No news is good news.”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“Looks like the storm killed off your lunch
“What about you, Fred, want another bump
“No, I’m set.”
“Anything to eat?”
“You know, a burger sure would hit the spot,
if you don’t mind.”
It’ll give me something to do. Let’s see, cheese,
pickle, no mustard, and light on the mayo. I bet
you’re off the onions.”
did you know that?”
they’ve been bugging my stomach the last couple
of years too, just like the black coffee.”
The kitchen’s empty. Vern must have taken
off for a drink. His antidote? The best cure for
a bad head is “a bit of the dog that bit you.” I
stand staring at the sizzling patty. Dorie’s my
only child and she’s grown so distant. I used to
blame it on the divorce, now, her faith. Maybe when
she gets older we’ll be friends. I hope so. I love
Joshy so; a butterball with long lashes and my Dad’s
chocolate brown eyes.
what a day! Fred got his from Robin. What’s he want
from me? Sympathy? Not on your life. Maybe just
comfort or punishment, or just plain old forgiveness.
And this damned storm with my babies out there.
The burger shrivels, almost black: I toss
it in the garbage. The walk-in shivers me. I reach
for two more patties stacked ten high with waxed
paper between them
When I shove open the kitchen door with my
backside, Fred switches off the radio.
“Here you go, Freddie.”
toward the silent radio.
radioed the Coast Guard. One of the diesels is acting
up. He’s losing some headway.”
that mean? Ah hell.”
it easy, Annie. It’ll be all right. They’re making
four to five knots. Coast Guard’s got them on radar.
They can putts along ‘till they get to Victoria.”
far out are they?”
don’t they turn around and come back?”
dangerous with the wind and seas from that angle.
They’re plugging along. They’ll be okay.”
yeah, you’re sorry. I’m sorry too. My kid and her
baby boy are out there in this god-awful storm and
who knows what’s happening.”
stifle the tears any more. The mascara’s streaking
and I’m a mess. I never let him see me this way
when he took off.
“I’m sorry, Annie.”
help it—I snap.
Annie?’ Is that all you know how to say, sorry Annie?
Well, so the hell am I, Fred. I’m sorry this storm’s
blowing, sorry the babies are out in the middle
of it, sorry you stopped in here today!”
I turn my face away and push my forehead
against the pounding window. The cool glass soothes
the heat in my head. Across the street the shops
look ghost-like through the horizontal rain.Salt-water spume scours the sidewalk and
darkens the brick wall of the Chamber of Commerce
building. No cars. And this vicious pounding against
Fred stands. From the corner of my eye I
see him slice the burger and pick up half in a napkin
and walk toward the windows. He’s looking west for
a break in the storm.
“I’m sorry, Fred. I didn’t mean to jump down
“You got enough reasons.”
“Come back and try the radio again.”
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”
Franklin’s voice cracks through the static. I glance
at Fred. His grinding jawbone dimples the cheek.
“Roger that, Victoria
Ferry. This is Coast Guard dispatcher at Ediz Hook.
Confirm your position and status, over.”
face flashes in my mind; I hear his voice, “See,
Nana, I did it.”
“Roger that position. Report your status.”
“ I repeat, report your status.”
Then broken voice.
“. . . May . . . Mayday . . .”
static. “One engine out . . .steering.”
cheeks flames with color, his jaw works vigorously.
that. Be advised: all aircraft grounded due to severe
weather conditions. Coast Guard Cutter on rescue
operation near Port Flattery. Will dispatch Cutter
to your location as soon as possible, over.”
that. I have ordered the lifeboats ready for deployment
sprints for the stairs.
“Grab a jacket!”
“Right behind you!”
exactly. Fred charges down three steps at a time,
bolts out of the door, and then sticks his head
back in to see if I’m following him.
“Keep going. I’ll meet you at the boat.”
time to feel anything right now. I run back into
the kitchen for food and a thermos of coffee. Then
my own bounding down the stairs. I lean hard against
the metal door; when I squeeze past, it slams hard.
The racket of the wind through the rooftops and
trees frightens me. Leaves fly by my head, stripped
from heaving branches. I know the way to the marina
with my eyes closed.
Like an amusement park ride, the dock sections
buck violently. Fred holds out his hand and I clumsily
leap into the cockpit. Above the din he shouts.
“Let’s go below!”
three-cylinder diesel idles, noisily vibrating in
the dim cabin. Fred scoots behind the navigation
table and pulls out a three-by-five card from shirt
pocket. From his own bold printing, he reads the
coordinates for the ferry’s position. He finds the
chart from a cubbyhole above him and smoothes it
over the tabletop. With sure hands, he draws the
two bearing lines and makes a small circle where
they intersect. I open the hanging locker and pull
on the pants of the yellow foul-weather gear. As
I zip up the jacket, Fred points to the circled
mark on the chart with the dividers.
“There, that’s where they are.”
go. I grabbed bread and apples on the way out and
a jug of coffee. Want some now, or later?”
“Later. Good thinking.”
We work well together, always did. When Dorie
was eight, barefoot, and playing with a couple of
pals, she ran a straight pin clean through the side
of her big toe. I picked her up facing me and through
her screams I told her to wrap her legs around me.
Fred poured on de-natured alcohol and then pulled
out the pin with needle nose pliers, no more than
fifteen seconds from accident to cure.
chooses to go out under a small trysail, no main—only
the bare pole of the mast and the little engine
engaged at idle speed. The wind punches us on the
port side as we head north.I amaze myself with what I remember from
years ago. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been
on a boat. He’ll keep the engine idling in case
we need power for steering, but that little diesel
would be worthless if we had to go into the wind.
When it comes to boat handling, I trust Fred.
Kimberly Anne is a well-founded boat. Fred saw to
that when he built her. At times he can be insensitive
and quite foolish, but when it comes to building
the man is an artist and a perfectionist.
As Fred pushes the tiller to round the sand
spit, we can’t see anything but rain and spindrift
blowing off nearby wave crests. Steering by compass,
he sets Kimberly Anne’s course toward the two crossed
lines on the chart—two hundred and ninety-eight
degrees. Down below in the snug galley, I pour coffee
from the thermos into two mugs both loaded with
cream and sugar. The bread, in reality, is a bag
of hamburger buns. Two steps up the ladder I call
“Here’s coffee, want a bun?”
“Want buns? Don’t you mean, got buns?”
“Not for some time.”
together, loud until he yells.
“Take the helm”
radio squawks below. Fred vaults down the companionway
as I reflexively grab the tiller. With the squelch
button, he clears the noise.
Anybody. Can you hear me? Oh, God, please answer.
Can you hear me? Help. God, help us.”
Her voice sounds like a child.
“Dorie, this is Dad, over.”
“Dad? Is that you Daddy?”
“It’s me, baby girl. It’s me.
“Oh, Daddy, I can’t believe it.”
“You’re going to be okay. You’re going to
“Oh, Daddy, help us.”
“Mom and I are on the way. Dorie, Where is
right here with me. He’s okay. There are five of
us in the lifeboat, two women and a couple of kids.
“Good. Where’s the ferry?”
gone. We were the first ones in a lifeboat. Then
the ship lurched and dumped our boat in the water.
The ferry disappeared into the storm. I don’t see
anything but waves and rain. Oh Daddy!””
in there. We’re on the way. Stay calm. Dorie? Come
in Dorie. This is the Kimberly Anne come in Victoria
Express lifeboat. Do you read me.”
head pops out of the hatch.
“Yeah. Keep trying to get them.”
“You okay at the helm”
disappears below. I tuck the tiller under my right
arm and hold tight with both hands against the force
the waves and wind. Even with only a small triangle
of sail, the Kimberly Anne heels down hard. I hear
Fred yelling below, my heart sinks. Then I hear
“Fred! What’s going on?”
the bearded face from the hatch.
I got them again. They’re singing. Radar’s back
on. I see them, not more than fifteen, twenty minutes.
out the companionway and weaves toward me, jolting
down next to me as we slam into wave.
the wooden tiller and hands me the portable radio.
this is Mom, Dorie? Can you hear me?”
“Mommy, yeah, I can hear you. Are you coming?”
“Yes. We’ll be there in just a few minutes.
Are you okay?”
“Just soaked and scared, but, yeah, okay.
fine, Mom, just fine. He’s singing, “Puff the Magic
Dragon.” Everyone joins him on the chorus.”
. . .”
Mom? Wait. I think I see the top of Kimberly Anne’s